Rethinking Australian High-Rise Design by Bookmarc

Comments Bookmarc 13-03-2017

Green and sustainable design solutions to accommodate high density populations in urban areas are making waves with transformative tall tower proposals that could dramatically alter living conditions for future generations.   

Dr Philip Oldfield is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of the Built Environment, University of New South Wales, Sydney. He leads the Architecture and High Performance Technology stream in the MArch programme and is a member of the High Performance Architecture Research Group. Together with Ivan Ip, Associate at Architectus, Dr Oldfield oversaw three revolutionary design research projects by students in the Architecture + High Performance Technology group at UNSW Built Environment.

Ever more exciting opportunities exist for rethinking Australian tall building design inspired by our unique climate, culture and context. This is evidenced by the design research projects set forth by the group at UNSW. The proposals merge super tall tower building design with green, smart features and are conceptualised as sustainable powerhouses, increasing the liveability of residences and enriching surrounding communities.



Transplanting farming from its traditional outpost in regional country areas, the “Agri+Culture” project by Jun Loh relocates farming to the urban centres. “Agri+Culture” envisions a hybrid vertical farm, market and residential community based in Pyrmont, Sydney. Vertical farming in high-rise structures is an innovative idea that seeks to accommodate a growing urban population by allocating greater land and resources for agriculture. Imagine food harvested in high-rise buildings within cities with farmers markets accessible to the surrounding community. A wholesale revolution of farming practices, this idea removes the barriers and environmental impact of food transportation from rural to urban environments and moves away from a dependence on land. “Agri+Culture” conceives urban farming, growing and cooking as key drivers of sustainability social and community, challenging the sterile high-rise environments of the past. 



Quintessential Australian terraced housing serves as inspiration for a new type of tall building design in “Vertical Vernacular”, a project by Xin Pei Chong. The ambitious high-rise terraced proposal utilises prefabricated technologies to achieve a new typology of terraces, customised and individualised by residents, in skyscraper construction and design.



The “Sustainable Hyper Density Transit Hub” proposal by Pansy Yau solidifies the link between skyscraper locations and public transit infrastructure. A new high-rise cluster of towers above a train station as well as a pier linked to a water taxi demonstrate that the greatest carbon savings involve uniting high density towers and public transit infrastructure.



Dr Oldfield will further profile these design projects and examine how towers can be reinvented to play a more generous role in future cities at the Australian Smart Skyscrapers Summit 2017. The Summit will be held on the 28-29th of March 2017 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.


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Jennifer Curran 2017-03-21

I live at Neutral Bay and cannot have herbs growing on my balcony because of traffic pollution. Buses run past along with other diesel-fuelled vehicles, their pollutants floating onto my white walls. If I wipe a section of wall it becomes whiter. I therefore conclude that plants grown near traffic will have polluted surfaces which will be impossible to wash clean before consuming them. The stuff sticks. Is this situation considered when planning to grow plants for consumption? If so, how is it overcome?

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Philip Oldfield 2017-03-27

Hi Jennifer. Most 'vertical farms' are grown in controlled conditions - so the air quality is artificially controlled, and additional CO2 added to fuel growth, LED lights are used 24 hours a day, to maximise output. As such, polluted air often isn't considered in the design of vertical farming systems. However, in the design above it was explored. The idea was to locate a 'controlled' vertical farm at the lower levels - so this would be like normal examples above, where air is cleaned before being admitted to the spaces. One of the benefits of height though, is that the higher you go, the more pollutants from roads tend to dissipate. As such, the higher levels in the proposal were open to the elements.

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Jennifer 2017-03-27

Thank you, Philip, for comprehensively answering my query. I can relax now whenever I hear of vertical agricultural gardens being developed! I have to admit to being a bit gobsmacked that you were kind enough to answer me yourself. It just keeps architects up there on the pedestal that I've built for you. I wrote to Neville Gruzman once (ouch, it was the '80s) after I saw an article about the beautiful Palm Beach house that he designed - and he replied! And I kept it! - until my peripatetic life unfortunately sent such stuff to oblivion. I wish you well in your projects - I now have a new name to watch out for!

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